Penn State Bowl Projection: All Signs Point To Pinstripe
Penn State’s football season certainly wasn’t a vast success when considering the program’s storied history. But with three years of sanctions taking their toll on the team, an even .500 record with scholarships set to return and the first bowl game in years coming in December is a win.
Two weeks ago, our own David Abruzzese broke down the pros and cons of potential bowl games for the Nittany Lions. We are now just over a week away from the bowl selection show, and with Penn State’s regular season officially over, it’s time to take a look at where to expect Penn State to play football in December.
If the experts are to be trusted, the Nittany Lions are likely headed to the Bronx for a matchup with an ACC opponent in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Pinstripe Bowl is a “second-tier” bowl game that is usually played between members of the Big Ten and ACC at the famed Yankee Stadium, a beautiful, new ballpark that opened just five years ago and is the home to the New York Yankees.
If Penn State does end up making the trip to New York City, it may face the reigning champion of the Pinstripe Bowl in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. While not a member of the ACC for football, as the team is one of four independents in Division I football, Notre Dame plays five of its games each season against teams in the conference as of 2013 and is essentially a de facto member, belonging to the conference in basketball. The squad stormed to a 6-0 record before losing steam and finishing 7-5. Similar to Penn State, the Fighting Irish are a legendary team with floundered success in recent years.
But Notre Dame isn’t the only potential opponent from the ACC that Penn State could expect to meet in the Pinstripe Bowl. Other possible opponents include Clemson, which would be a daunting opponent at 9-3 with a 6-2 conference record, or Duke, which went 5-3 in the ACC and 9-3 overall. Both teams are second in their divisions behind Florida State and Georgia Tech, respectively. Boston College is another possibility. The Eagles went 4-4 in the ACC and 7-5 overall behind an impressive running game that fields Tyler Murphy and Jon Hilliman.
CBS’ Jerry Palm, SBNation’s Jason Kirk, the Big Ten Network, and Phil Steele all project Penn State to land in the Bronx for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, but ESPN’s two experts disagree.
Brett McMurphy has the Nittany Lions facing an SEC opponent in the mouthful that is the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. The game takes place at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee and is home to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the Tennessee State Tigers.
Mark Schlabach has Penn State landing in San Francisco for the Foster Farms Bowl, taking place in the brand new Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers. The bowl pits a Big Ten opponent with a Pac-12 opponent, which would likely be USC. The Trojans were ranked at No. 15 at the start of the season but faltered, finishing at 8-4 overall and 6-3 in the conference. It isn’t the Rose Bowl, but it might be nice to see Penn State avenge its 2009 defeat at the hands of USC.
The Nittany Lions could also land in a slew of other bowls, but these three are the most realistic destinations for Penn State’s first December football in three years. They aren’t the most attractive games on the docket, but a bowl game is still a bowl game, and some of the potential opponents, like Notre Dame and USC, would make for a fun rivalry game of sorts.
ESPN’s Bowl Selection Show will take place on December 7 at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.